Filed under: Interview
Richie Hawtin, a man who really puts the TECH into Techno, is one of Techno’s best known, most respected and most established producers. Although he was born in Canada he is synonomous with Detroit, part responsible for breaking the second wave of Detroit Techno along with fellow producer Carl Craig. Also recording under the Plastikman moniker his first release the seminal Sheet One has become an underground legend. A firm favourite in Japan, his New Year’s Cocoon club at Womb with techno giant, Sven Vath, is becoming the essential way to spend new year for Tokyo techno heads. Catching him just before his Cocoon summer season in Ibiza and a busy summer of performances, HigherFrequency found out what’s going on in the Plastik world.
Interview by Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : Is this a part of a world tour or only a Japan tour?
Richie Hawtin : It’s part of a non-stop, never-ending world tour, which started about 10 years ago. No, I’m always touring. But this with Magda and the Minimize To Maximize thing, is basically just for June and we’re doing some Canadian and US dates and then the Japan dates and then in September we’re going to do some more European dates. Most of the time, Magda is doing her own things, and I’m doing my things, so every once in a while — maybe twice or three times a year, we try to do some things together. It’s cool. It stretches out the night and brings people a little more a view of what both of us are about and what we’re trying to accomplish musically.
HRFQ : You’re currently on tour with Magda. How did you connect with her, are you producing together or how do you work together?
Richie : We’re not really producing together. We’ve been friends for, whatever it is like six-seven years now. We’ve been roommates for about three or four years. Magda was the first person, male or female that I saw who really inspired me and who I thought had a lot of potential and has actually lived up to that potential. There was a lot of people I worked with in the past, who I either lent a helping hand to or kind of wanted to come on board with us – with either Plus 8 or Minus, and just didn’t seem to have the intensity that they needed to travel and tour and produce, and Magda has got all those things. And she’s a good friend and we have fun together – we like to have fun, but we’re also very serious about what we do, so it is good.
HRFQ : Can you tell us a bit about the structure in your decks? You’ve been a spokesman for Final Scratch, and have mentioned using programs like Ableton, but what other new technologies – software or interfaces – are you currently experimenting with?
Richie : Right now, of course both those programs are key to my DJ shows and my live performances or whatever I’m doing. The biggest development has been trying to develop and come up with new interfaces and new control services, whether that’s special control services for the live show which I just did a couple of weeks ago for Plastikman. And my father and I developed a new control circuits for that. And for the last two years my father and I’ve been creating customized versions of the mixers, the Allen & Heath mixers and adding some extra features that I needed to do my performances. And that’s kind of all developed now into the mixer that we are using tonight which is actually only the second time I’m using it and it’s kind of the final prototype of a new Allen & Heath mixer, which possibly will be released to the public in the next couple of weeks, but we’re just testing it and seeing what’s good and what’s bad. So, you know, technology and computers and software I think, of course there’s going to be further developments and there always needs to be, but there’s a lot of stuff out there that still hasn’t been explored to the fullest depth of it’s possibilities. I think one of the lacking areas is interface, and how we as humans control interface with our creativity through technology. So that’s a big area of my interest, trying to come up with things and modify things or see what works and what doesn’t.
HRFQ : Is your father working with one hardware manufacturer in particular?
Richie : No, no. We have kind of a pseudo company or pseudo idea that we call CTRL – for control. And it’s my father and I modifying anything that we think needs modifying, or creating something custom. We’ve done a lot of work with Allen & Heath because I’m good friends with the people there and they were really the first company who actually gave me free shit and had an open ear. It wasn’t just like, ‘use our shit and can we use your name?’ It was like, ‘use our stuff, what do you like and what don’t you like, and can we modify it?’ or they were totally open to the suggestion that I was going to rip their stuff apart and do shit that I wasn’t supposed to. They’re a small company in comparison to the people like Pioneer and Technics and these people, and so they have a much more similar concept and outlook on things, similar to like smaller labels and the electronic/techno communities – so it fits really well together.
HRFQ : New technology is one of the most important themes for artists from now on. How do you think new technology like MP3s will change the attitude of creative artists over the next 10 years or so?
Richie : I don’t know how much more they’ll change. I think there has been a huge change over the last 5 years of people now really accepting things like Final Scratch and Ableton or whatever. The idea that someone has to create a record or CD to become popular, or not even popular – just to get their music heard, is completely outdated now. I play so many things from my computer as MP3s or digital files have not come out yet, or possibly will never see the light of day – I just happen to think that are cool. I think that we’ve nearly finished crossing that bridge of how digital audio and digital media files will kind of empower the individual. Anyone can make a song and anyone can deliver it to the world now on the web. Not everyone can do a great one but, everyone can. You know, five years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to say that – kind of 10 years ago, definitely we wouldn’t have been able to say that. 15 years ago when I started, you would have said I was a fucking heretic. It would have been impossible.
HRFQ : You mentioned your Plastikman LIVE performance. You’ve just re-started it after a long absence. Can you describe it a bit? Why did you decide to do this, and what is your future plan with it?
Richie : Again, kind of like a challenge. I love DJing, but I’m a little bit tired of just playing other people’s records. I see a future where there’s much more integration between using other people’s music and samples and ideas, and crossing it with yourselves — with your own ideas, very spontaneously, and fluidly, so that creation inspiration is much more inseparable. Now DJs, as a DJ, I’m sampling and editing people’s music, but I’m still playing their music. It’s still more an other people’s music than mine – DJ’ing – and so going back into Plastikman as a live performance is kind of to experiment with my own music – to move to a place where those two things bridge and become one again. Where it really is a Hawtin live-show every moment of the day – it could consist of samples, inspiration, ideas from other people or my own, or spontaneous ideas of programming and I need to be developing and experimenting with both before they actually bridge together.
HRFQ : You are currently based in East Berlin. Why did you choose to move there?
Richie : I always wanted to move to Europe. I had spent five or six years talking about going to Berlin. I actually had an apartment there for one year and I spent four days there. And it just never seemed to materialize. I ended up moving to NY for a year, and that was kind of the catalyst. I had spent so much time traveling, I had a great network of friends and family and infrastructure in Canada, which I still do, but it was really hard to get away from that for a while. So NY was like a baby step to get away from that and see if it could function without me and see how it would kind of change the whole structure. And once that was done and I was kind of bored with NY, I had the freedom then to say, I’ve made this step, now if I would go anywhere else, where would I go, and it was like, well I’ve been talking about Berlin for so long, let’s go for it. And it seemed to be the right time. Berlin was cool 5 years ago, and a great city 5 years ago, but there’s much more of a network of friends and producers. You know, things happen for a reason. Things happen at a certain time. This was the right time for me to go. So, I don’t know how long I’ll be there. I feel like I’ll be there for quite a while right now, but when the time runs out in Berlin, I’ll know exactly where I’m supposed to be, I hope.
HRFQ : You’re currently working with Ricardo Villalobos a bit. How did you two hook up?
Richie : I used to buy records from Ricardo ten years ago. He remembers it more than I do. I remember him trying to sell me some records that I wasn’t into back then, but I’m probably into them mostly now. Yeah, you meet people a lot as you are traveling both peers and friends and producers or whatever, but every once in a while, you meet someone who you really connect with on a number of different levels and Ricardo and I were like that – very – pretty much instantly, not 10 years ago, but once we started meeting again over the last 2 or 3 years. Very fluidly, very naturally, we became friends and at least DJ collaborators and just ended up spending a lot of time together, hanging out, talking, playing, and theorizing about what would happen if we were in the studio together, and things like that. Ricardo is a very special soul and a good friend, so we’ll see what happens.
HRFQ : Do you receive demo’s from many Japanese artists? Have you found any potential materials from Japanese producers?
Richie : Yes. There’s an influx of demos from all over the world now coming to M-nus and Plus 8. And I was just back in the office for the first time in two months, two weeks ago and I did a quick flip through and usually I grab a couple things that grab my attention and then the rest I go through later, and there was definitely a couple of Japanese things in there. I haven’t had time to listen to things. The problem withc eventually everything gets listened to, but sometimes I listen to it the day it comes in and then sometimes it’s not for 6 months. It just depends on when I’m in the office and what the schedule is. So, I definitely did see that there was a lot of Japanese demos waiting to be listened to. We have a lot of new records coming out on M-nus right now. And I’m always looking forward to signing new artists and finding new music, whether it’s to sign or to play, but for signing, sometimes it’sc I hear demos and they go past me until I meet the people. M-nus is very much a family. And it’s not – I don’t sign a record or a piece of music just because it’s going to sell or just because it’s cool. I usually end up having to meet the people first and if they kind of fit into the family structure we have, then it’s cool. Usually it takes a couple of the M-nus crew to hang out and say ‘thumbs up’. And if there’s too many thumbs down, then it’s like, ‘well your music’s cool, but maybe it’s better for another label.’
End of the interview
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